I am an occasional reader of Susan Heathfield’s HR column on About.com, and one this week really caught my attention, because it reflected so much on the issues that leadership training must be structured to address: Poorly training people promoted to managerial positions with little preparation.
In this article she started right in with a great quote from a manager friend of hers:
“The biggest mistake I’ve seen managers make – and I’ve seen it quite a few times – is to assume that you know what’s going on.” He also added his favorite quote from Peter Drucker. “Most of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to get their work done.”
You rarely go wrong quoting Drucker, and the list that Susan compiled really backed up her theme. Here are some highlights of the signs of a bad manager (with some editorializing by us, of course, to have some fun):
The Time-Filler: Requires written reports and updates that gather dust on shelves, asks for written proposals before giving the go ahead on projects, and holds endless meetings so the boss remains “in the loop on everything”
The Slacker: A person who assumes a management role and then, does little, while delegating all work to other employees. This is sloth gussied up as engagement.
The Sloppy Mechanic: Gives the Squeaky Wheel all the grease, where problems of complainers are solved first and/or the complainers receive more resources and attention from the boss than the rest of the team.
The Blatherer: Droning on in meetings, or in conversations about nothing productive, with employees too polite (or worried) to cut off the conversation. Self-important monologues in meetings. Gossiping about fellow employees inappropriately…this list is endless!
The Poker Player: Neglects to communicate important information to employees, whether through neglect or by design to keep secrets. They might be a bad poker player, too: Many bosses simply don’t understand what information their subordinates need to do their jobs, and fail to deliver through ignorance. Sounds crazy, but true more often than not.
The Ruler: Considers work a personal fief; Asks employees to do their personal work, or promotes personal ventures on company time.
The Vacillator: Exhibits a lack of decisiveness or tries to please everyone This is a manager who cannot stick to a plan of action, changes his or her mind based on “the most recent conversation,” moves the group in new directions based on new feedback at the drop of a hat, and never seems sure of the appropriate direction. Change is good, but not by the hour!
Bosses who exhibit these and similar behaviors are barely managing, and certainly not leading. But remember that it is not always their fault: Our experience tells us the company promoted these people and left them to their own devices to figure out how to lead effectively.
Address leadership training aggressively, consistently and measurably, and bad bosses seem somehow to disappear, replaced by managers who lead effectively. And you haven’t hired anyone, or fired anyone! Talk about a positive hit to the bottom line!
What labels might you dream up for bad bosses you have had? Let us know in the comments section!